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Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister believe that the radical approach--on which I congratulate the Government--is the right approach? There is no doubt that the London Underground is in many ways archaic. One obvious example is the Northern Line; another is that even today stored value tickets are not being sold to ordinary people who do not have season tickets or weekly tickets. One cannot buy stored tickets, a system which has been available elsewhere for 20 years.

I have considerable sympathy with the right reverend Prelate about the decision to negotiate with Railtrack. I was involved for five unhappy years with British Rail, and Railtrack still employs a number of its managers, many of whom are second rate people. Did the Government consider handing the matter over to Hong Kong MTR, which is superb? After all, Felixstowe docks now belong to Hong Kong; they are extremely well run and serve Britain very well indeed. Did not the Government consider anything a little more imaginative than bringing in Railtrack?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as far as concerns the ticketing system, if the noble Lord would care to go across to Westminster station--despite the unattractive report of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford--he will see that, very recently, at the bottom of all the automatic machines there is one which says "Carnet". That provides for what I think the noble Lord means by "stored tickets". For decades it has been one of my main bugbears that London Underground has not provided that facility; at last we have it.

So far as concerns Railtrack, because of the benefits of integration with the national rail system the Government were right to explore fully the prospects of the sub-surface areas going to Railtrack and it being able to provide directly that degree of integration. We needed to explore those options first. I hope that we have very nearly come to an effective conclusion on that. Of course it is open to the Hong Kong railway and anyone else to bid for the other parts of the London Underground system.

House of Lords Bill

6.17 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

[Amendments Nos. 3 to 5 not moved.]

Clause 1 [Exclusion of hereditary peers]:

Lord Randall of St Budeaux moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 1, line 5, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (2)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6 I will speak also to Amendments Nos. 9, 59 and 62.

Perhaps I may first give a brief overview of the effect of the amendments and then explain my rationale for bringing them forward. I will give then a brief description of each amendment.

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The principle upon which this group of amendments is based is that the heirs of hereditary Peers would lose their automatic right of becoming Members of the House of Lords. It means that all hereditary Peers would remain in the House until they die but they will not be succeeded by their heirs. In other words, after the Bill receives Royal Assent, the House will remain exactly as it is now. This approach does not countenance an instantaneous and arbitrary removal of a large proportion of the membership of the House.

However, to remain consistent with the Labour Party manifesto, it is necessary to introduce immediately fairer voting arrangements in the House of Lords. I believe it is unreasonable and not at all sensible that the Conservative Party should have in perpetuity a large, overwhelming majority over the Government, in this case the Labour Party. In my view, there is not a sound case for retaining this voting imbalance. My proposal therefore introduces a weighted voting system which puts the Conservative and Labour Parties, to all intents and purposes, on an equal footing, the independence of the House being maintained through the votes of all other Peers. To put it simply, all Peers would have the right to vote. Under the current membership figures of the House, the weighting would result in Government votes being multiplied by 2.7. That is all we need to do. Implementation is simple.

The principle on which my proposals are based is, first, to leave the membership of the House as it is at the moment but not to allow Peers who die to be succeeded by their heirs and, secondly, to multiply Labour votes, as Contents and Not-Contents, by 2.7. That is all that needs to be done for phase one reform of the House of Lords. What I have said is utterly consistent with the manifesto. Nothing more needs to be done.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I am intrigued by my noble friend's assertion that everything he says is consistent with the Labour manifesto. I do not know how hard he fought before 1st May 1997. I know how hard I did. I know the belief that after 90 years of travail a Labour government would immediately remove the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House. My noble friend's proposition allows hereditary Peers to continue to sit and vote in the House but the imbalance in voting strength is dealt with by increasing the value of a Labour vote. That may be an ingenious idea, but I should like my noble friend to explain a little further how he sees that to be consistent with the Labour manifesto and also to explain what he thinks the rest of us were fighting the election for.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, I shall try to give my noble friend what I think is a fair answer. All along we have been discussing the removal of hereditary Peers, but we have not had one debate in the House on how we should go about it. Furthermore, there is nothing in the manifesto about the speed with which hereditary Peers should be removed. So there is consistency with the manifesto. The principle on which my proposals are based is not to replace hereditary Peers with their heirs and then to multiply the Labour vote by 2.7.

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Perhaps I may explain why I have submitted these amendments. I shall do so by referring to two points of relevant Labour Party history, the party of which I have been a member for 35 years, and the party for which I have great affection. The first major reason for Lords reform arises from the poll tax defeat. I was in the House of Commons at the time and everyone was furious, including me. It was a huge public relations disaster for the House of Lords. As a consequence there is overwhelming support for properly balancing the voting in this House so that the Government can get their business through on a fair basis. The Labour Party felt that the only way to get that balance right was immediately to get rid of hereditary Peers, because hereditary Peers are predominantly Conservative. I believe that that view was erroneous.

My second point about Labour Party history--and we should be open about it--is that there is still in the Labour Party a tumbrel mentality. The Labour manifesto was written when Labour were in opposition, and there were, and still are, people in the Labour Party who, like Madame Defarge, wanted to see the elimination of hereditary Peers at all costs and as quickly as possible. Those elements of Labour Party history are at the heart of the Bill and will be seen as part of Labour's constitutional--

Noble Lords: Order!

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, will my noble friend give way?

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, I am not giving way. There is no "Order" at all. I will give way when I am ready.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, I am told that it is a custom of the House that I should give way. It is at my discretion when to give way and I will give way. However, that does not mean to say that one has to finish in the middle of one's sentence. I will be courteous and give way in a moment.

Those elements of Labour Party history are at the heart of the Bill and they will also be seen as part of Labour's constitutional reform package, which so far has been highly commendable. I give way.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend most sincerely. My noble friend gave two reasons for his proposal. I was waiting for the issue of democracy to arise. One of the reasons that the Labour Party wrote this into the manifesto concerned the position of the hereditary principle in a modern democracy. I was puzzled not to hear my noble friend say that because that is at the heart of what we are discussing.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that intervention. I do believe that we live in a democracy and we have to respond to that. That is why everything I am saying is utterly consistent with the Labour Party manifesto.

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Perhaps I may deal with the way in which the voting system will work. As a result of the Labour Party's submissions on this issue, I have swung away from the idea of having an elected House--I made that point at earlier stages of the Bill--towards the idea of the strong independence of the House.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, perhaps I may--

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, I should now like to deal briefly with how this manifesto commitment was taken forward.

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I am most grateful. My noble friend said that what he is advocating is not inconsistent with the Labour Party's manifesto pledge in as much as the manifesto did not mention timing. The manifesto pledge to which the Labour Government are committed is to remove the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House. I understood my noble friend to say that he supports the views that the heirs and successors of hereditary Peers would not be allowed to sit and vote in the House. Does he not agree that there is some degree of inconsistency in that view? If the manifesto commitment had been, as my noble friend believes, that the heirs and successors of hereditary Peers should sit in the House, then the manifesto would have been framed in that way. But it was not framed in that way. It was precisely framed to say that the existing hereditary Peers could not sit and vote in this House.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux: My Lords, there is no mention in the manifesto of the rate at which one should get rid of hereditary Peers. It does not state that at all. However, with the passage of this Bill the process of removing hereditary Peers from this House will have started. I support the notion of the removal of hereditary Peers. There is no disagreement between my noble friend and myself on that point. All we are talking about is how we go about it. I propose that we go about it in a way that is in the interests of the House. That is the essence of my case.

Perhaps I may now examine briefly how the manifesto commitment was taken forward. There have been a number of serious deficiencies. At this stage I shall mention just two. I do not want merely to be negative, but, first, there has been no strategy on how the question of reform should be conducted. That is very serious. As a consequence, we have come up with a solution which--I believe the House will agree--is far from optimal. That invariably happens when there is not a strategy and agreed assumptions. Secondly, there has not been a working partnership between the House and the Government on reform. Therefore, there is no consensus across the House. I have always believed that the House had sufficient power to work in partnership.

Perhaps I may summarise my remarks in Committee on strategic objectives. They are central points and I want to place them on the record. In order to arrive at

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a sensible and acceptable solution for phase-one reform, it was necessary to take account of the various conflicting interests; for example, the interests of the Government--first, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons if necessary--in drawing up a set of agreed objectives. I believe that they should take the following form. These are the seven strategic principles on which reform should be based.

First, the hereditary principle is not sustainable as a mechanism for automatically gaining membership of the House of Lords. Secondly, the passage of phase one of the legislation must not weaken the House of Lords by a large and arbitrary reduction in the number of Peers at a time when the House of Commons is weak and is failing to bring the executive to account. Thirdly, neither the Government nor the House of Lords should take an absolutist or rigid approach regarding the speed at which hereditary Peers leave the House of Lords. Instead, we should go for consensus. That means accepting that there are conflicting interests and that there must be compromise on all sides.

The fourth strategic point is that it is not sensible for one party to have a large overall majority in this House. That must be dealt with immediately by the Bill. The fifth point is that we must minimise the risks of reform by avoiding at all cost a Big Bang approach in removing hereditary Peers. Point six is that the Government, in formulating reform policy, should not treat our hereditary colleagues as if the Government were a bad Victorian employer. A number of hereditary Peers are hurting as a result of the way they have been treated. Finally, a solution to reform should be simple. Complexity does not help at all. That strategic approach results in the decision not to replace hereditary Peers, and the weighted voting solution emerges.

In taking forward the reforms, where do these amendments fit into phase one? First, there is the Weatherill amendment. The House voted for it. It is the will of the House and the details of the amendment are therefore not challengeable. But since there is no consensus, there is a case for adding an alternative solution to the Weatherill proposals in order to provide the House with a choice.

If there were, say, one or two proposals in addition to the Weatherill proposals, they should be considered at Third Reading and the preferred solution should be chosen by the House. There would then be a consensus in favour of a particular solution and that would then be respected. That would provide a basis for some kind of consensus across the House.

Perhaps I may conclude by speaking to the amendments that are before the House--

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